The Ultimate Guide to the Fiance(e) K-1 Visa Process

 

Step 1. Get engaged & Gather Proof of relationship

Meet and engage your fiance to start the visa processMeet your fiance(e) & get engaged.  You can travel to him/her or they can meet you in the U.S. (if possible).  You must have met or gotten engaged in the past two (2) years but a waiver may be granted. An engagement ceremony is not required.

Gather proof of your relationship.  Proof includes engagement ceremony invitation card, photos, lunch outings, travel receipts, vacation photos, proof of mingling, etc.  You should also assemble proof of an good on-going relationship (phone, emails, texts, any other form of contact).

 

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Step 2. File the I-129F application

First, determine your eligibility.  The U.S. citizen files the I-129F application in the U.S. This petition begins your Fiance(e) K-1 process. You will provide lots of documents with the application.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirms receiving it and begins to review. They mail back a “Notice of Action” (NOA1, I-797C) with a “receipt number”.  You can use this to track your application online at the USCIS.gov website (check case status online).  

See full guide on Filing I-129F

 

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Step 3. USCIS Reviews your application

USCIS reviews applications, and may ask for additional information or clarifications (if any).  These are known as “Request for Evidence” (RFE).  You have to provide all information to the best of your ability as soon as possible.  

The USCIS will continue to review and eventually approves your I-129F application, if all goes well.  Review times vary (several months up to a year). Check average processing times at USCIS website.

 

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Step 4. NVC Reviews your application

The USCIS reviews your I-129F for a fiance visaUSCIS forwards approved application to National Visa Center (NVC).  The NVC quickly processes the visa for availability.  This means they check if an annual visa numerical limit has been reached for this category.  Since most family-based visas (like K-1) aren’t subject to this quota, you don’t have to worry about limits.

They do a FBI background check on the petitioner.  The NVC informs you and forwards application to fiance(e)’s country’s embassy. The whole process usually takes about 1 month.

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Step 5. Foreign U.S. Embassy processes case

The U.S. embassy in your fiance(e)’s country receives the paperwork from the NVC.  Then the embassy mails required documentation to your fiance(e).  This packet includes the “Non-immigrant visa application” (DS-160 online or paper) and a checklist of what to bring for the interview.  

Some countries will issue an interview date while others require that you set up an appointment for interview yourself online.  The packet will tell you what to do. All required forms and instructions are found at the U.S. Embassy website.

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Step 6.  Fiance(e) submits required paperwork

Your fiance(e) will compile and submit documents DS-160 (online or paper) and other forms (including for any children). He/she might also have other requirements to fulfill depending on the countries visa requirements.  The packet they receive should tell them what they’ll need to do.  

For instance, he/she might have to set up an appointment for an interview (online) and other procedures beforehand.  Check the requirements on their embassy website.  You need to provide your fiance(e) with your completed I-134 (Affidavit of support) to present at the interview. Your fiance will also need to get a police certificate to show their clean records.

 

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Step 7. Receive Interview date and time

US Embassy in your fiance(e)'s country will issue the K-1 visaNext in the K-1 process: U.S. embassy in fiance(e)’s country issues an interview date/time for your fiance(e).  Now is the time to get prepared and make sure all your documents are being gathered.  

Be sure to give proof of on-going relationship and the form I-134 to your fiance(e).  Right away, your fiance(e) should get ready for the next step — set up a medical exam appointment.

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Step 8. Fiance(e) gets a medical exam

Your fiance(e) will make an appointment with an approved hospital or clinic.  See list of authorized physicians for the medical exam in your fiance(e)’s country.  Fiance(e) can now get a medical exam for the K-1 visa.

This exam is meant to test basic health (physical, mental, diseases).  It is conducted along with an optional vaccination.  Although it’s optional, it’s highly recommended to get the vaccinations at the medical examination. Your fiance(e) will need it eventually for AOS, so get it now.

This step might be done even before Step # 7 (interview date issue). It depend’s on if your fiance(e)’s country allows for this.  If not, don’t worry, you can set up the appointment once you’ve been issued a interview date confirmation.

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Step 9. Fiance(e) has an interview

Your fiance(e) will interview with the U.S. embassy in his/her countryYour fiance(e) goes through the K-1 visa interview with the embassy. He/she will bring all required documents (DS-160 confirmation receipt, proof of relationships, and I-134 Affidavit of support), then answers interview questions about relationship (and you), and gets approved.  

If he/she has child(ren) then they usually have to be present (check requirements for your embassy).  Embassy provides a sealed medical packet.  Your fiance(e) cannot open it.  When he/she arrives in the U.S., an immigration officer (US Department of Homeland Security) will open and review it.

See full guide on the K1 Visa Interview>>

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Step 10. Approval and visa issued

Once approved at the interview, the embassy holds your fiance(e)’s passport and quickly issues a k-1 visa (usually within 1.5 weeks).  

If your fiance(e) has child(ren), then they also receive their own K-2 visa.  The hard part is over.  The interview is passed and the visa is issued. To get a comparison of approvals  see the K-1 visa approval and denial statistics

You can follow along your case with this helpful K1 visa checklist.

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Step 11. Fiance(e) travels to the U.S.

The embassy will inform you that the visa is ready.  Your fiance(e) picks up the ready passport with K-1 visa and is allowed to travel to the U.S.  This Fiance(e) K-1 and K-2 visa is valid for 6 months from issue. He/she must travel to the U.S. within that time. 

Your fiance(e) arrives at a Port of Entry with sealed medical packet (in hand) to present to US DHS.  There, your fiance(e) is given an I-94 form at entry. Finish up with Customs and Immigration, and your fiance(e) is now in the country!

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Congratulations 

It was a long process.  The step-by-step guide on the Fiance(e) K-1 Visa process should help you understand what’s going on.

Your fiance(e) is now legally in the country.  It’s an exciting time, have fun and enjoy each other’s company.  The hardest part — waiting for your fiance(e) to arrive — is over.  But you still have some steps ahead.

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Step 12. Get Married

The 90-day limit is intended for you and your fiancé(e) to get married.  According to USCIS instructions, the intent behind the K-1 is not for you to get re-aquainted or finalize your decision.  Your decision should have been finalized before filing.

You and your fiance(e) should marry as soon as possible.  He/she can only marry you, the sponsoring U.S. citizen, and no one else. Or else, he/she risks getting deported for not upholding the visa requirements.

You and your fiance(e) can marry within 90 days of the K-1 visa

Whether you decide to host a wedding or go to your local “city clerks office” for the wedding ceremony, it’s up to you to get the marriage certificate as soon as possible.  You’ll need it to file the “Adjustment of Status” (step 14).

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The Fiance(e) K1 Visa process after marriage

 

Step 13. Employment Authorization Document (EAD, I-765) – Optional Step

Although it’s not necessary, you can file for permission to get your fiance(e) to legally work as soon as he/she enters the U.S.  You can file the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), form I-765.  However, eligible children with K-2, K-3, K-4 visas can also file for EAD.  For these visas the EAD is valid for longer times.

It’s recommended to apply for the EAD along with your AOS (step 14).  If you do so, the filing fee for the I-765 will be waived.

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Step 14. File Adjustment of Status (I-485), AOS

Remember that your fiance(e) is a “non-immigrant” until you two get married.  To “adjust” his/her status to a permanent resident, you file the I-485.  This “application to register permanent resident”, is a very important step you must file right after you get married within the 90-day limit. You’ll file for any children of your spouse at the same time to adjust their status too.

You’ll need various documents to file the I-485.  The marriage certificate, your approved I-129F petition notice, an affidavit of support I-864, the I-94, and other documents are required when filing. Once filed, your spouse be scheduled to have a Biometrics Service appointment for fingerprinting and background checks.

With the AOS, you can also file the Employment Authorization Document (EAD, I-765 from optional step 13).  In fact, it’s recommended to do it at this step because you’ll be waived the filing fee. Also if you have some kind of emergency where your spouse needs to leave the country, you can file for the I-131 Travel document.

Once approved, the AOS grants your spouse a “permanent resident” status.  This is commonly known as a “green card”.  

See Full guide on AOS >>

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Step 15. File for a Social Security Card (form SS-5)

A social security card is a requirement for many legal documents and identifications that your spouse will need. File it now.  You will have to file the SS-5 with the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Find your local SSA to personally go and file for your spouses SS card.  You’ll need his/her unexpired I-94 along with other proofs. You may complete this step before Step 14 (AOS).

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Step 16. Conditional Permanent Resident (2-year Green Card)

For marriages less than 2 years old, a conditional green card is issued after approval of the AOS (step 14). With this conditional card, your spouse is allowed to travel and work like any other permanent resident (“green card” holder). 

This card is “conditional” because it is temporary for a 2-year period.  This is a way to enforce that your marriage is legitimate and not a fraudulent way of immigrating to the U.S.

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Step 17. Gather proof of a Bona-fide marriage

While you wait for the 2-year conditional GC to expire, you should be gathering proof of a bona-fide marriage.  This means you should look for ways to prove your marriage is legitimate.  You will need it when you’re filing for your spouse to “lift conditions” (I-751 10-year green card).

gather bona-fide relationship evidence during the 2-year conditional permanent residency

You should gather several proofs.  Examples include: living together, vacationing, joint finances or bank accounts, co-owned property, having children, and much more.

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Step 18. File to Remove Conditions on Residence (“Lift condition”, I-751)

The final step to take is to file the I-751 to “lift conditions” before the 2-year conditional green card expires.  This signifies that your spouses “conditional permanent residence status” (step 16) is over.  He/she will get a full 10-year green card.

You’ll need to submit the I-751 along with copies of your green card and proof of a bona-fide marriage (step 17).

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Step 19. FUTURE STEPS – file for citizenship 

It may seem like a long way away, but ultimately your spouse should file for citizenship in the future. Lots of benefits exist for citizens that are not extended to others.  This should be your spouses ultimate (and maybe final) goal.  Good Luck.

For a full K-1 visa tutorial with all the steps, filling out forms, and tips, see the online tutorial.